The role of wholistic/configural properties versus global properties in visual form perception.

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A distinction has previously been proposed between global properties, defined by their position in the hierarchical structure of the stimulus, and wholistic/configural properties defined as a function of interrelations among component parts. The processing consequences of this distinction were examined in five experiments. In experiments 1-4 configural properties (closure and intersection) were pitted against component properties (line orientation and direction of curvature) and the results showed that discrimination and classification performance was dominated by the configural properties. In experiment 5 the relative perceptual dominance of type of property (configural/nonconfigural) and level of pattern structure (global/local) was examined. The results showed that classifications based on the configural property of closure were not affected at all by the level of globality at which this property varied. Global advantage was observed only with classifications based on line orientation. Taken together, the present results suggest that configural properties dominate discrimination and classification of visual forms, whereas the perceptual advantage of the global level of structure depends critically on the type of properties present at the global and local levels. These findings are also discussed in relation to findings on texture perception, and it is suggested that the perceptual system may be characterized by a predisposition for configural properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-504
Number of pages16
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


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